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Essential picnic tips: A guide to eating outside

Jul 8, 2011 by     Comments Off    Posted under: Summer dining

Summer is the season for picnics, and Chicago is full of spots just asking for a blanket and a basket of sandwiches. Before you grab your cooler and head for the nearest park, though, make sure you’re an expert on making outdoor meals enjoyable.

Bring all of the materials you could possibly need.

You don’t want to break out the pasta salad and then realize you forgot forks. According to the ehow.com article “How to Plan a Picnic,” you’ll want to pack utensils, paper cups and plates, napkins, insect repellant and sunscreen, among other things. Take a look at the full check list for more.

Make some delicious food

It wouldn’t be a picnic without the sandwiches, salads, or whatever you decide to pack in your basket. Tasteofhome.com suggests whipping up some summer veggie subs or picnic chicken. Find more recipes here.

8 Perfect Picnic Recipes

Stay safe

You don’t want food poisoning to ruin your outing. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that picnickers store food that needs to be kept cold in a cooler with ice, cook meat thoroughly (using a food thermometer), and not leave leftovers out for more than two hours (or one, if it’s above 90 degrees Fahrenheit). Read all of the FDA recommendations here.

Pick the perfect location

Picnickers in Chicago have lots of places to choose from. For a comprehensive list and reviews, visit yelp.com. Here are a few fun spots from the list:

1. Millennium Park

201 E. Randolph St.

www.millenniumpark.org

Photo by Helen Adamopoulos

You’ll find fountains, flowers and plenty of art at this popular downtown park. The sights include British artist Anish Kapoor’s sculpture “Cloud Gate,” better known locally as “the bean.” Take a look at it and you’ll see why!

 

2. Lincoln Park Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool

Fullerton Parkway and Cannon Drive

chicagoparkdistrict.com

Photo by Helen Adamopoulos

If you’re looking for somewhere less crowded and more tranquil than Millennium Park, take your picnic here. You can have your lunch surrounded by woodland wildflowers, prairie grasses, dragonflies and turtles.

 

3. Oz Park

2021 N. Burling St.

chicagoparkdistrict.com

Photo by Helen Adamopoulos

Come here if you want to take your picnic over the rainbow. This park is named after Lyman Frank Baum, the author of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” You’ll find statues of the Tin Man, Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, and Dorothy and Toto watching over the swings and flower garden.

Now that you have your materials, your food, safety knowledge and a location, it’s time for a picnic!

It’s summer 2011 and Chicago food trucks are revving up

Jul 8, 2011 by     1 Comment     Posted under: Summer dining

As Chicago inches closer to a bill that would making cooking on trucks legal, the line of food trucks hitting the road keeps getting longer.  And now, you might be able to find them in a parking lot near you.

Twice a week, the mobile meal community gathers near welcoming businesses with hungry employees.  On Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., a handful of food trucks park on the northwest corner of Halsted Street and North Avenue.  On Thursdays, the trucks convene from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the parking lot of Ethyl’s Beer & Wine Dive, 324 S. Racine Ave.

Ethyl’s Beer & Wine Dive’s hosted the food trucks for the second time Thursday. Vendors included 5411 Empanadas, Fido to Go!, Taquero Fusion, The Slide Ride and Gaztro-Wagon.

Food Truck Thursdays on PhotoPeach

Follow the Twitter, Follow the Truck

The surge of food trucks in Chicago couldn’t have happened without the advent of social media. Follow a food truck on Twitter to find out where to score your lunch on wheels.

Food truck aggregator:
http://twitter.com/#!/chicagofoodtrux

5411 Empanadas
http://twitter.com/#!/5411empanadas
Menu

Bergstein’s NY Deli
http://twitter.com/#!/BergsteinsNY
Menu

Brown Bag Lunch Truck
http://twitter.com/#!/brownbagtruck
Menu

Bun Pow Buns
http://twitter.com/#!/bunpowbuns

Fido to Go!
http://twitter.com/#!/fidotogo
Menu

Flirty Cupcakes On Wheels
http://twitter.com/#!/flirtycupcakes
Menu

Gaztro-Wagon
http://twitter.com/#!/wherezthewagon
Menu

Happy Bodega
http://www.happybodega.com/menu.html

Haute Sausage
http://twitter.com/#!/hautesausage
Menu

Hummingbird Kitchen
http://twitter.com/#!/hummingbirdtogo
Menu

Meaty Balls Mobile
http://twitter.com/#!/fossfoodtrucks
Menu

More Mobile
http://twitter.com/#!/themoremobile

Simple Sandwich
http://twitter.com/#!/simplechicago
Menu

The Slide Ride
https://twitter.com/#!/theslideride

The Southern Mac & Cheese Truck
http://twitter.com/#!/thesouthernmac
Menu

Ste. Martaen (vegan)
http://twitter.com/#!/stemartaen
Menu

Sweet Miss Givings
http://twitter.com/#!/SMGbakery
Menu

Tamalespaceship
https://twitter.com/#!/tamalespaceship

Taquero Fusion
http://twitter.com/#!/taquerofusion
Menu

Tipping Da Cow
http://twitter.com/#!/TippingDaCow

Wagyu Wagon
http://twitter.com/#!/thewagyuwagon
Menu

Find the food tour that’s right for you

Jul 8, 2011 by     2 Comments    Posted under: Summer dining

Chicago is a foodie paradise if you know where to look.  Luckily, there are tour guides for that!

 

Photo by tpbrown

1. Taste of Chinatown:

Who: Chicago Food Planet

What: The Chinatown food tour visits five sit-down tasting locations in the historic Chinatown community: Triple Crown, Lao Sze Chuan, Ten Ren Tea & Ginseng Co., Saint Anna Bakery and Lao Beijing.

When: Mondays, April through November, 11 a.m.

Why:  To try Chinese food delicacies from the Canton, Mandarin and Szechuan regions.

How much: $60 adult | $35 adolescent & child. All food tastings are included in the ticket price.

 

 

Photo by bubzillion

 

2. Fork and the Road:

Who: Fork and the Road

What:  If you’re a cyclist, foodie or just want to see the city, this tour is for you. The shortest route is 13 miles and the longest tour is 22 miles, but each has three or four stops.  Everyone can find a tour to fit their taste buds: the Deli-ciousIce-cycleLatin Meat LoversMediterranean CruiseTour of Asia or ‘Wich Way.

When: Weekends through Sept. 26

Why:  To work off all the delicious food you’re eating.

How much: Tours range in price from $50 to $60 a person.

 

 

 

Photo by gtrwndr87

3. Pizza Tour

Who: Second City Pizza Tours

What: Sample pizza from four of Chicago’s greatest pizza venues and decide which to pledge your allegiance to. The tour visits two deep dish and two thin crust restaurants including Gino’s East, Giordano’s, La Madia, Pizzeria via Stato and State Street Pizza.

When: Every weekend

Why:  Because everyone loves pizza.

How much: The tour is $48 for adults, $32 for college students and $24 for children 8-18 years old. Children 7 years or younger are free with the purchase of an adult ticket.

 

Photo by jumbledpile

4.  Bucktown and Wicker Park Food Tour
Who: Chicago Food Planet

What: Discover the unique artists’ colony that has slowly evolved into a hidden foodie paradise as you enjoy delectable food and drink samples from six authentic mom-and-pop restaurants and ethnic eateries in the Bucktown and Wicker Park neighborhoods including George’s Hot DogsHot ChocolateGoddess & GrocerSultan’s MarketPiece and iCream.

When: Tuesday through Saturday, April through November starting at 11:30 am.

Why:  To support  “mom and pop” specialty restaurants and one-of-a-kind local cafés.

How much: Ticket price of $45. All food tastings, enough for lunch included.

 

 

Photo by srqpix

5.  Near North Food Tour

Who: Chicago Food Planet

What: The Near North Food Tour visits seven of Chicagoan’s favorite eateries in the tasty Gold Coast, Old Town and Lincoln Park neighborhoods, including Bacino’s PizzeriaThe Spice HouseDelightful PastriesAshkenaz DeliOld Town OilTea Gschwendner and The Fudge Pot.
When: Seven days a week, March through November starting at 11:30 a.m.

Why:  To see architectural gems, beautiful gardens, historic mansions, backdoor venues, hidden parks and of course, to eat.

How much: $45 adult | $30 adolescent | $15 child. Tasting included.

 

 

Photo by antwerpenR

6.  Coffee & Pastry Tour

Who: Chicago Savvy Tours

What: Chicago Savvy Tours offers an eye opening, sweet fest with our Coffee & Pastry Tour of Andersonville and Little Saigon including three coffee shops and three sweet venues for a delectable balance of sugar and caffeine.  Also includes a visit to the Andersonville Galleria for shopping.

When: Saturdays and Sundays at 9:30 a.m.

Why:  Because you’ll stop at Anne Sather‘s Swedish restaurant, where you’ll taste the  best cinnamon roll ever.

How much: $27

 

 

Photo by Kirti Poddar

7.  Chocolate Tour

Who: Chicago Chocolate Tours

What: Enjoy a guided walking and tasting tour to select chocolate shops, bakeries, and cafes, including secret chocolate treasures and famous favorites.

When: At least one tour a day. Times vary.

Why:   Because you’ll learn about the history of chocolate, while eating it.

How much: The tour is $40 per person.

 

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Extended rooftop hours mean more outdoor fun

Jul 8, 2011 by     Comments Off    Posted under: Summer dining

The Chicago City Council approved a trial program that allows downtown rooftop bars and outdoor gardens to stay open one hour later. The measure, recommended by the Illinois Restaurant Association, the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association, and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, allows venues to stay open until midnight seven days a week.

According to Alderman Brendan Reilly, the extra hour applies to approximately 70 bars within the 42nd ward, which basically encompasses the Loop, River North and the Gold Coast. To celebrate an extra hour of alfresco drinking fun, the Chicago Loopster team picked out six stellar outdoor options.

Enough reading. Check out the slideshow and meet us on the rooftop for a drink!

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Chicago’s food history: a chronicle of cuisine

Jul 8, 2011 by     1 Comment     Posted under: Summer dining

With a name like Chicago, this city was fated to be known for food. Although the origins of the city’s name are hotly debated, a trip to the Chicago History Museum will tell you Chicago comes from the American Indian word, Chicagaoua, which refers to a weed, similar to wild garlic or onion, that grew around Lake Michigan.

Not to mention, the locals help the city live up to its name. With their culinary tastes and expertise that span the globe, Chicagoans’ powerful influence on the city’s palate has shaped an eclectic history of eats. If you want to learn more about food history and the city’s different cuisines, queue up the PBS documentary The Foods of Chicago: A Delicious History.

In the meantime, salivate with the Chicago Loopster over a chronicle of cuisine in the city.

Best Chicago ice cream cones

Jul 8, 2011 by     Comments Off    Posted under: Summer dining

Where are  Chicagoans enjoying icy treats this summer? Here’s a map of popular parlors around town.

You’ll find Italian gelato marked in green; custard in blue; and frozen yogurt in pink. Everything else is just plain, old ice cream. It’s National Ice Cream Month so have a lick–I mean, look!

 

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Celebrate America’s birthday with a bang. Find your fireworks

Jul 2, 2011 by     Comments Off    Posted under: 4thofjuly

Since most fireworks are illegal in Illinois, many locals flock to stores in Indiana and Wisconsin in the weeks leading up to the July 4 weekend. Fireworks laws are more relaxed in those states, so there is no shortage of stores selling fireworks legally. Cross into Indiana, for example, and most of the billboards you’ll see along highways point you to the nearest fireworks store.

Explore this interactive map to find some popular fireworks stores near Chicago.

Remember that most fireworks are illegal in Illinois and specific laws vary from town to town. If you’re interested in shooting fireworks, either privately or as a professional display, be aware of Illinois’ current fireworks regulations.

The Office of the State Fire Marshal and the National Fire Protection Association recommend that people attend a professional fireworks display on July 4 to ensure a safe holiday. For more information visit: http://www2.illinois.gov/KeepCool/Pages/fire_safety.aspx

The Loopster’s guide to the Taste of Chicago

Jul 1, 2011 by     Comments Off    Posted under: 4thofjuly, Summer

 

Taste portion of the Mustard-fried Catfish from BJ's Market & Bakery

This Loopster's must-have: the Mustard-fried Catfish from BJ's Market & Bakery. Photo by Janelle Schroeder/ MEDILL

What’s more all-American than eating and drinking outdoors with thousands of strangers in Grant Park? The 26th Taste of Chicago comes to a close Sunday, July 3. Are you still wary of trading paper tickets for food? Can’t figure out which vendors are worth the wait? At the Loopster we’ve done the work for you. Here’s a quick guide to the food-fest from the folks most qualified to do so – professional eaters.

Taste Newbies

A dozen new vendors join the mix of stalwarts serving up classics like Chicago-style hot dogs and deep-dish pizza. The new batch of restaurants highlights the diversity of Chicago’s food scene. From Chinese to Caribbean you can travel the globe without ever leaving Grant Park.

Time Out Chicago tackles the Taste

With more than 50 vendors each serving multiple dishes it is a nearly impossible feat to eat everything on offer. The team at Time Out Chicago sampled 40 tasting portions and has the photos to prove it.

Tribune’s Top Ten

The food professionals from the Chicago Tribune dish out their can’t miss booths at the taste. Sentimental favorites are listed alongside vendors new to the Taste this year. Pressed for time? Here is a short-list of must-have eats.

The Taste in the palm of your hand

Paper maps are so 2010. Download the Taste of Chicago application (available for iPhone and Android) to have the entertainment schedule with live updates, restaurant descriptions and more.

If you decide to skip the Taste of Chicago, there are plenty of other Independence Day weekend dining deals. Fourth of July weekend dining and drinking deals